By Proxy World

Here is a mildly amusing way I used to get into Out of This World from a borrowed, shuffled deck. (Amusing for the performer, that is.) I guess it’s somewhat bold in that you’re having them set up the deck for you, but it makes complete sense contextually, so it doesn’t raise suspicion.

Here’s what it looks like…

Take the deck and shuffle it.

Cut the deck into two halves and place them in front of the spectator and say, “Can you shuffle?” And do the standard miming for “riffle shuffle” with your hands. It’s the same move as if you were giving a baby a shoulder rub. (You fucking creep.)

IMG_6213.GIF

It really doesn’t matter how they shuffle. This is just to check out their abilities.

One of three things will happen.

  1. They will say, “yes,” and they’ll riffle-shuffle the two halves together. (It may take them a second to orient the halves in their hands because they’re not used to having the deck pre-cut for them.)

  2. They will say, “No. Uh, kinda. Well no. Not like the fancy kind.” In which case you say, “No problem. It doesn’t really matter.” And you shuffle the halves together.

  3. They will say, “yes,” and they’ll go to shuffle, but they’re so not used to having the deck separated for them that they will put it back together and then riffle off half of it and go into the shuffle. This isn’t a problem. Just something to note for now.

(I’m going to continue this write-up as if your spectator fell into groups 2 or 3 above. If they are in group 1 you can do something slightly different at the end, which I’ll get to in the notes after the description.)

Take the deck from them and spread through and pull a red card and a black card from the middle and set them side-by-side on the table.

Give the deck to the spectator face-up and tell them to deal the red cards onto the red card and the black cards onto the black card.

Kindly thank them in your mind for setting up the deck for OOTW.

When they’re done, look at your watch or a clock and say, “Okay, that took around 40 seconds. I think that’s a reasonable amount of time for that task. But I’m going to show you a way that will have you doing it in less than half the time.” (I don’t tell them I’m going to time them before they deal, because I don’t want them to try and do it quickly.)

Assemble the deck. Give it a red-black shuffle. (A legitimate overhand shuffle where you run the cards singly in the middle, maintaining the separation of the colors.)

“Now, I know you’re not a card expert, so it would be impossible for you to know exactly the order in which the cards are getting mixed, of course.”

After the shuffle, give the cards an in-the-hands false cut. Then cut a quarter of the deck to the table. “You don’t spend your day handling cards. You couldn’t say for sure if that’s 10 or 15 cards, right?”

Then cut 2/3rd of what remains (half the deck) to the right of the first packet, but with some space between. “Is that 20 cards? 25? 30? It would be hard to say.”

Take the cards left in your hand and drop them a few cards at a time into a pile between the two piles on the table. “Is that 2 cards? 3? 5? You mind—your conscious mind, at least—says there’s no way you could know. Because cards aren’t your area of expertise.”

Place the original packet you cut off, on top of the packet in the middle that you just put on the table, then shuffle that half into the other with a genuine riffle shuffle. Don’t push the halves flush. Spread them in their just-woven state.

IMG_1265.JPG

“If I gave you 10 minutes to study this, you might be able to remember the exact pattern of how many cards of each half were woven with how many cards of the other half.”

Push the sides of the spread flush, and the square up the spread.

“But now it would be seemingly impossible to have kept track of all of it… the shuffling, the cutting, more shuffling. If I asked you if this top card was red or black, would you be comfortable stating that with certainty? How about the 10th card? How about any card. No…. of course not.”

At this point the deck is mostly still separated into reds and blacks, although there are likely a few cards mixed up in the middle. You’re going to clean this up in the process of removing some “leader” cards for the red and black packet. That may be all you need to do. Or you may have to cull or otherwise secretly move a couple more cards in the process of spreading the deck towards yourself to pull out the leader cards.

“You seemingly can’t know anything about the order of this deck. But for what’s about to happen, that somehow must not be true. Here… take the deck. We’re going to do what we did before. You’re going to deal the cards into red and black. But you’re going to do it in half the time. And… you’re not going to look at the faces of the cards.”

This comes across as a nice little twist in the routine. Up until this point, they didn’t really know what was coming. All you told them at the beginning was that they were going to separate the colors again but in half the time. With that in mind, there’s no reason for them to question the shuffles. They’re anticipating getting a mixed deck back from you, and your shuffling is in line with those expectations. Only now does it dawn on them that something different may occur. This is the moment that clarifies all the patter from before about, “You couldn’t know where any particular card is,” etc., because the only way to do what they’re about to do is if they somehow tracked the distribution of red and black cards during your shuffle.

“Go ahead. Trust me. Trust yourself. Deal the cards into two piles. Obviously not just back and forth, but two somewhat even piles. This will be the red pile this is the black one. Go quickly and don’t think about it.”

From there you finish with your preferred Out of this Word handling.

AfterJerx

1. Although this was always very strong for me, I don’t really perform it anymore because I have other ways I prefer to do OOTW. If I was going to do it like this, I would want there to be some reasoning for why they could now achieve this feat. So there would be something that happens after the first deal. Something that would somehow affect their luck, intuition, perception or whatever.

2. Keeping that in mind, the face-down deal doesn’t have to immediately follow the face-up one. They could happen hours apart (or more). “Okay, you did that in about 40 seconds. Later tonight, when the Full Strawberry Moon rises, I’m going to show you something you won’t believe. The Strawberry Moon is said to affect intuition.” Or something like that. (The Full Strawberry Moon was a couple days ago, guys. You missed it. The good news is, any celestial event can have any meaning you want. All that shit is made up anyways.)

3. If, during the beginning phase of the trick, they’ve demonstrated they can shuffle the two halves together cleanly, you can have them do the final shuffle during the actual trick, if you want. I’m not sure how much it adds.

4. You may be tempted to use a Rosetta-style shuffle if they can’t riffle shuffle. Don’t bother, It won’t work. While the Rosetta shuffle mimics a riffle-shuffle in some respects, it doesn’t replicate a tight, well-done rifle shuffle. You’ll have too many cards to clean up.

5. Don’t rush the cutting portion (the part between the two shuffles). I used to try to set up for that final shuffle with some quick cuts without comment, but it’s hard to get your proportions right that way. You want to be cutting off very close to a quarter, followed by very close to half the deck. By acting like you’re making some salient point about how many cards you’re cutting, that allows you to give it the attention it needs without it feeling weird.

6. You may be concerned that at one point in the presentation they are staring at a deck that’s separated into red and black. Don’t be. It really doesn’t give them any clue on how the trick works. After they see the deck separated that way, they see a genuine shuffle, followed by a genuine cut, followed by a second genuine shuffle (that they may do themselves), followed by them dealing through the deck (which feels like another kind of “mix.") If they follow all of that and whatever OOTW handling you’re doing, then there was no way you were ever going to fool them with the trick in the first place.

7. I originally conceived of this as just a lazy way to get the spectator to do the work for setting up OOTW from a shuffled deck. But I think the face-up deal actually adds a nice element and makes complete sense presentationally. You’re establishing a standard for comparison which they are then going to exceed in an impossible fashion.

Mailbag #7

giphy.gif

We all constantly hear magicians talk about how they want to be the most memorable part of the performance. Many times I’ve heard a magician tell of how a layman began to describe a trick he once saw and how amazing it was, and when the magician asked him what that magician’s name was, the layman came up empty. And every magician always talks down about this, that the opposite is really what’s important: for the spectator to remember YOU and not necessarily the trick.

I just found it interesting (and correct me if I’m wrong) that with you, the important thing is for the spectator to get the experience, and whether or not he remembers you were involved is almost irrelevant. As you’ve said many times, you are just as happy when a spectator has an experience and you are just another “bystander” that apparently had nothing to do with creating the experience. Especially because with your style you are not even trying to take credit for the effect.

I guess this is understandable for professionals that want to get future bookings, it’s important people remember them and their names. But as you’ve pointed out, a huge percentage of magicians in the world are mostly hobbyists that do magic for family and friends. —YR

Yes, this is one of those things that is completely the opposite for professionals and amateurs. If you’re a professional magician and nobody really remembers you, then you probably won’t be a professional magician for very long. So if you don’t make the performance about you in some way, you’re not really ever going to take-off as a professional.

On the other hand, if you’re an amateur magician and you consistently make the magic about you then you won’t be an amateur magician for very long. It’s just not going to be fun for your friends and family in the long term.

Let me illustrate this by taking it to the extreme. Imagine you were at a barbecue at your friend’s place and you said, “Hey, everyone, want to see a magic trick?” And then you fired up some Peter Gabriel and unbuttoned your shirt and had a fan blowing your hair and you acted like Shin Lim for the next 8 minutes. If you did that, it’s possible you’d get a good response. But if you tried to do it again a week later, people would be like, “Oh, that’s okay. We’re going to play Jarts.” Putting the focus on you is not something that’s going to appeal to people week-after-week, year-after-year.

I’m going to get back to this letter at the end of this post. First I’m going to answer a couple other emails…


Can you give us your impression of John Kennedy’s Tractor Beam? I like the idea of the light being what causes the animation but I feel like the “laser pointer” also being the actual electronic reel makes it pretty obvious what is going on. Am I just overthinking this or is it just that blatantly obvious what’s going on? —SL

This is the sort of thing where I honestly don't know how a layperson would respond to it without showing it to them myself (and I don't like the trick enough to bother with that). I definitely don’t think it looks “obvious” at all, so that wouldn’t be my concern.

My issue with the laser pointer (besides the fact it doesn't look like a laser pointer) is that I think it's probably less interesting than "amplified mind power" or "sexual energy" or "low level nuclear radiation" or "shadows" or whatever you might say is moving the object if you did something similar without the laser pointer. The laser pointer is almost too believable for me. I mean, it is possible to move things with lasers.

I apply the "green grass test" to this. If people had been doing this trick with a laser pointer for years and then someone came along and said, "I've found a way to do it without the laser pointer," wouldn't we all be excited about that? So isn't this maybe a step backwards? 

That being said... I could be dead wrong. Someone could test this out and find it gets much better reactions for some reason I can't wrap my head around.

If any readers end up getting it, I’d be interested in hearing how it plays for you.


Have you ever written about methods to overcome / bury / decapitate-and-shove-garlic-in-the-mouth-of my "magician's voice"? 

I try to be conversational with my scripts, but tense up, and endlessly revert to that booming, gesturing "and now I'm going to show you something amazing!" Robert-Houdin persona. Which isn't pleasant for anyone. 

(Or, if you haven't written on it, do you know of any good books / articles on the subject?  Ken Weber's chapter was way too short and pretty much said, "Just don't do it. Be conversational." Which I'm having a damn hard time doing.) —AD

No, I don’t think I’ve written about this specifically and that’s because it’s not an issue I’ve ever really had to deal with, so I don’t have much insight into it. I do think it’s an important issue, though, because hearing someone go into a “performer” voice is a huge buzzkill. In a social situation it’s the kiss of death as far as creating a moment that feels spontaneous. But even in a professional show you’re going to want to feel more conversational at times.

You say you “try to be conversational in your scripts.” If I had to guess, I would think that might be one of your problems: you’re too scripted. You’re too comfortable in what you’re going to say, which allows you to slip into a more presentational tone of voice. I don’t really know how to get around this if you’re talking about a professional show. I guess it’s just a matter of getting better at acting. You need to learn to act as if you’re speaking extemporaneously. I can’t act for shit, so I can’t give advice there.

In a social magic situation, the way to appear less “performance-y” is simple: don’t script so much. It’s hard to appear too presentational when you’re not sure exactly what you’re going to say. And you don’t gain anything by having a polished script when you show some friends a trick after dinner.

My “scripting” consists of this:

  1. I will come up with a one-sentence general premise for the effect.

  2. I will make note of anything I need to establish for the trick to really seem impossible. Establishing these conditions is key to making the magic as powerful as it can be, so I will “script” the way I’m going to reinforce them (verbally or via my actions).

Beyond that, I sort of wing it. I talk to you and I tell you a story and I may stumble through parts or say something that’s not 100% clear and you’ll have to ask me to clarify. This is how people communicate in real life. The subject of the conversation may be somewhat fantastical, but it will still have the rhythm of a normal interaction.

So my first recommendation is to script less.

My second recommendation is to use presentations that involve less certainty on your part. You say you end up reverting to the, “And now I’m going to show you something amazing,” style. But you can only do that if your premise is, “Hey, here’s something amazing,” in the first place. If your presentation is more along the lines of, “I don’t understand this thing I found,” or, “Can I get your help with this?” or, “Let’s test this out,” or, “This weird thing keeps happening, I want to see if it happens with you too,” then you will find it difficult to get pulled into something that feels too much like a “Ta-Daa!” moment because it would be a very abrupt change from the presentation you’ve established.

But again, that advice is more geared towards social performances. If you’re reading Ken Weber you may be thinking more in terms of a professional show. In which case I agree with his advice: Just knock it off and act like a human.


So, getting back to the first email, there was this line I wanted to comment on…

[W]ith you, the important thing is for the spectator to get the experience, and whether or not he remembers you were involved is almost irrelevant.”

Yes and no. I think sometimes people interpret me saying, “take the focus off yourself,” as me implying that I see magic as some selfless act of giving “wonder” to the world. Like I see myself as just a benevolent sprite, spreading joy through my delightful acts of magic!

Not quite. While I do think it’s sad if you’re doing magic just for some validation, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting magic to be a part of your persona that makes you more likable and enjoyable to be around. Magic is not really the kind of art where you’re like, “I’m going to do whatever I want, and damn what anyone else thinks!” Magic, especially social magic, should be an enjoyable, communal thing that draws people to you. But the Catch-22 is this: if the primary goal of your magic is to make yourself look good, you will turn people off. You won’t be able to hide the neediness in your performance.

Imagine you knew someone who was incredibly strong. One day he proved it to you by bending a frying pan. Another time he did so by bending a steel bar. The next time he lifted an anvil. Another time he lifted a car. And so on. The first time he demonstrated his strength, you would have been like, “Damn, that’s impressive.” But each subsequent time it would be a little less so. Eventually you’d just be like, “Okay, I get it.” And you’d wonder what his need was to keep demonstrating this skill. This is what can happen if you just do tricks that come down to a demonstration of your abilities or your cleverness.

When the focus of the trick is on you, you are forced to tell the same story over and over. That story is: “Look at this thing I can do.” That’s not a story that can maintain its power over time.

When I performed in a magician-centric style, I would burn people out on tricks very easily. Unless they had an innately strong interest in magic, I would feel a slip in enthusiasm after a few times performing for them. And I used to think that was just the nature of performing magic.

But by shifting the focus off myself, and putting tricks in other narratives, a whole world of stories beyond “look what I can do” opened up. That change has allowed me to maintain people’s interest and engagement in magic for so much longer.

The other day I was with a friend who has easily seen me perform 100+ times in the last few years. I walked into her apartment, grabbed a drink and said this, like it was the most normal thing in the world…, “I went to a baby’s funeral and stole this rattle out of its coffin. Check this out….” Now, she knew it wasn’t true, but it didn’t matter. Her interest was piqued. Her eyes lit up. She adjusted her chair, leaned in a little, and said, “I can’t wait to see how this plays out.” And she was into it and engaged up to—and past—the point where the rattle began to shake on its own.

“I can’t wait to see how this plays out.” That’s exactly what I’m shooting for.

Now, if I said, “Here’s a baby rattle. I’m going to shake it with my mind.” That would have been just another trick about me. She wouldn’t think, “I want to see how this plays out,” because she would be completely used to me saying I was going to do something impossible and then doing it. It’s a story she’s already heard over and over. It would be like if the strong man came in and said, “Take a look at this wrench. It’s not possible to bend this thing, right?” You wouldn’t think, “I wonder what’s going to happen.” You’d think, “Oh, I guess he’s going to bend that wrench.”

When I was a kid performing magic, I wanted people to think, “Wow! You’re amazing!” But now I realize that you can only pull that off for a short amount of time before you look like a needy egotist performing fake miracles. Now my goal when I perform is for people to think, “that was fun, that was crazy, that was incredible.” Those positive feelings are ultimately going to flow back to me as the person responsible for creating that experience.

My point is, whether you want to just magnanimously show people a good time, or whether you’re hoping to make people like you, the route to both of these goals is to take the spotlight off of yourself.

Dustings of Woofle #7

Regarding White Monte, I was asked if that trick doesn’t violate something I’ve written about in the past: the idea that the best presentations to accompany a trick are “present tense” ones. On the surface level, I would say that yes, it doesn’t meet that standard. But I think, ultimately, it gets to a similar place. You see, the purpose of “present tense” presentations are to include the spectator and to make the magic about this moment, rather than something that happened in the past. It’s a way to infuse vitality into the presentations because the story is unfolding now. I think White Monte achieves similar goals by constructing the props in the moment and—in my favorite variation—suggesting this story from the past concluded with a picture of the person you’re with right now. That ending makes the timeline a little funky, it’s not strictly a “story about the past,” although that’s a big part of it.


I don’t usually talk about things people send me. And that’s probably why people don’t send me that much stuff.

But I wanted to make an exception for a book I was sent earlier this year, Gerald Deutsch’s Perverse Magic.

deutsch_cover-1-2-19.jpg

“Perverse Magic” is probably not what you’re initially thinking (unfortunately). The definition in the book for Perverse Magic is, “Magic that happens by itself, against what the magician wants to happen.”

The book collects a series of posts done on the Genii Forum by Gerald Deutsch since 2003.

I’m mentioning the book here for a couple reasons.

The first is because all the proceeds go to Open Heart Magic, a company that “provides therapeutic Bedside Magic to kids in children's hospitals.”

The second reason is because I think the concept of “Perverse Magic” is a worthy one. The idea is to take the ego out of presentations. He does this by giving presentations for a couple hundred tricks, including many classic effects, where the magician’s will is undermined over the course of the trick. The magician often ends up confused or frustrated. This is more of a “theatrical” confusion or frustration—it’s kind of impossible to play genuine confusion/frustration over the course of a 4-phase card routine, for example—but it doesn’t really matter when it comes to eliminating the ego element. Whether I think you’re actually confused or I think you’re pretending to be, you’re clearly not using the magic to boost your ego, which is something that so often is the unappealing element of magical performances.

While our final output isn’t all that similar, we definitely have some overlap in our philosophies and you may be interested in someone else’s approach to shifting the focus off the magician’s “power.”

The book is huge. It’s 470 pages. It’s a collection of message board posts, so there’s no illustrations and no real formatting, but that doesn’t prevent anything from being easily understood. The book is $50 and, as I said, the proceeds go to charity, so consider picking it up. It’s available here from Lulu.com.


Hey, speaking of giving away things for free, here’s a brief history of the times I’ve given away a book for free.

A Brief History of the Times I’ve Given Away A Book For Free

I’ve frequently had a situation in the past where I’m interacting with a well known magician over email/text and they’ll say, “Oh, so your book is coming out, right? I’d really like to get a copy.” And I’m like, “Ok. Buy one.” And then I realize they thought I should send them one for free because they’re famous or something.

When David Blaine intimated he’d like a copy of my first book, I was like, “Hey, I’m no starfucker. He can buy it just like everyone else.”

My feeling is, the only reason someone would want one of my books is if they like the site, and if they like the site, then they are already the recipient of 100s of hours of work a year on my part for free. And if I was in their situation, I would want a way to reimburse the person responsible for that thing I liked. I wouldn’t be trying to finagle more free content from them. So I just don’t buy it when someone suggests they like me, like the site, like the content, but want a free copy of the book.

That being said, there are three times in the past where I’ve sent someone a free copy. Here they are.

Recipient: Angelo Carbone - Theoretically this one wasn’t for free. Angelo is a brilliant magic creator and wrote me expressing interest in buying my book. I knew he was working on his own book so I said, “Hey, why don’t I send you a copy of my book. Then you can just send me yours when it’s ready.” However “when it’s ready” may be years from now. He originally wrote me in February of 2016 to tell me he was expecting his book to be ready, “Later this year.” Hmmm… not quite. But that’s okay, I don’t doubt he’ll eventually come through.

Recipient: Neil Patrick Harris - A year or so ago, Neil put his PO Box address on Twitter and said, “My birthday is in a week, send me presents!” (or words to that effect). And he listed a bunch of things he liked. I think he soon realized how ridiculous it was for a multi-millionaire to be soliciting gifts from his fans, as a couple days later he tweeted that he was just joking. Now, I’m not sure how, “Send me gifts. Here’s my real mailing address and some things I want,” could be intended as a joke, but I kind of admired the tone-deaf audacity of it all so I sent him one my few remaining copies of The Jerx, Volume One. He’s a magician/fan of magic. It had won the magic book of the year. I thought he’d appreciate it, but his response was… no response. So I guess I thought wrong!

Recipient: Steve Brooks - I sent Steve (founder of the Magic Cafe) a copy of my first book a couple years ago. I noted in my inscription that this site wouldn’t exist without him. Then Steve wrote me asking if I’d send him some free decks too. Hey, sure. I’m an amiable guy and I intended to always let Steve have free copies of everything I released. I thought it was funny that he would be the only person to get things for free. But then I started receiving emails from people who had their posts removed from the Cafe for mentioning my site. And not only were their posts removed, but they were also getting PMs from the Cafe staff which made completely bullshit claims about me. (Exactly how fucking dumb are they? Did they think people posting a link to my site would not then also send me screenshots of their PMs?) Anyway, I figured these orders were coming from the top, so clearly my attempts to befriend Steve Brooks had failed. And while I still print an extra copy of everything for Steve, I don’t actually send them to him. I just keep them piled up like presents for a kidnapped child.

So, I guess the lesson of this write-up is: Don’t give people free stuff.


I want to make a public apology. A few weeks ago I had a contest where people would take a picture of themselves posing in the same manner as a photograph of Joshua Jay. It was all intended to be good fun, but even our best intentions can leave people hurt by our actions. So I want to say, “I’m sorry.” I’m sorry to everyone for holding that contest before Josh posted this picture of himself on Instagram.

Screen Shot 2019-06-07 at 3.57.19 PM.png

White Monte

The first trick I ever saw in a magic shop was Color Monte. If you don’t know that trick… seriously? You don’t know that trick? Go look for it on youtube. It was a magic shop standard at the time (1990-ish) and probably for a good time before and after. The guy who showed it to me was the owner of the shop: an obese, pasty-white, hairy, loser. (If you want to get an idea for what he looked like physically, first imagine a Somali pirate. Now picture the exact opposite of that.)

He fumbled through the trick with his fat, Cheeto-stained fingers, repeating the patter word-for-word from Emerson and West in his gross nasal drone. I didn’t know exactly what he was doing—I had no knowledge of any card sleights—although I could tell he was doing something abnormal. But I still remember the surprise of seeing that $14 card show up at the end. I was tuned in enough to understand his handling of the cards wasn’t really natural, but the idea that he was hiding a whole card from me during the effect didn’t occur to me at all.

So you best believe I walked out of there with Color Monte (and a Hot Rod) in my pocket. And another “hot rod” in my pants, thinking of all the chicks that were going to lose their shit when I blew them away with the story of the time the guy hustled me for $14.

✿✿✿

A couple years after that, packet tricks seemed to go out of fashion. Or perhaps it just took me a couple years to realize they were never in fashion.

Around this time, my friend Pat went to an IBM meeting in Columbus, Ohio. As he was the new guy there, some of the regulars asked him to show them a trick to feel him out a little. He was an “Easy to Master Card Miracles”-level amateur, so he pulled out four cards to show them Brother John Hamman’s, Gemini Twins.

But before he could start, one of the hot-shot regulars said sarcastically…, “Oh great… packet tricks.”

I’ve asked Pat to give a line-reading from his memory of this incident, 25 years ago.

This became a running joke for us in the years to come, with the other person saying it whenever one of us would start a trick with anything less than a full deck of cards. And, of course, we would ramp it up over time, acting more dismissive and disgusted with “packet tricks” as the years passed. Soon we were shoe-horning other words into the phrase. Like, if my zipper got stuck I might say, “Oh, great…. jacket tricks.”

And while we were just pretending to be sickened by packet tricks, the truth is they never were the sort of thing I gravitated towards much in the ensuing years.

✿✿✿

But I recently had a Color Monte revival in my repertoire, due to a new way of performing it that I stumbled on.

It started because I had a stack of blank cards on my coffee table that I was using for non-magic related purposes. But I would find myself practicing sleights and counts with them frequently, so they just stayed on my coffee table for a few weeks.

Then one day I was sitting around watching tv with a friend and I was thinking about Color Monte and I drew an X on a card, an O on a card, and a penis on a card. And I started telling my friend about this “weird game” I got caught up in on a marching band trip to NYC when I was a teenager.

I was just screwing around, but when I got to the finale, and the penis card appeared, the reaction was stronger than I’d ever received for Color Monte and I realized there was something here worth considering.

I refined my handling a bit more and showed it to a few more people (changing the final image and my patter pretty much each time) and it continued to surprise me with how big the reactions were.

✿✿✿

Before I continue, let me give you my theory in regards to why it got such a good reaction, because you might be thinking, “Color Monte with hand-drawn cards? Big deal.” That would have been my thought before actually trying it. But consider these reasons for why it might have a big impact…

First…

Color Monte has a fairly strong structure for a trick. It’s a lot of little, mediocre moments that sort of lull people into an understanding of what the trick is. And just when they think they may have some idea what you’re doing, it has a big surprise ending.

And…

The premise of the patter isn’t actually that bad. “I went to the city and got caught in this grift,” is something you might actually tell someone.

But…

When you pull out a packet of specially printed cards, you’re tossing out that potentially interesting storyline. You are essentially admitting, “This story I’m about to tell isn’t really true, it came with the special cards.” And when you bring out those cards you’re tacitly stating, “There’s nothing personal or special about this performance.” And, you’re even undermining the impact of the ending because it’s clearly a “magic trick” from moment one.

On the other hand…

If you decide to do it with normal cards—which is many magicians “improvement” on using the specially printed cards—you are turning something potentially unique into “just another card trick.” What the Color-Monte-with-normal-cards crowd doesn’t understand is that, yes, the specially printed cards are the greatest weakness of Color Monte, but they’re also the most interesting thing about it.

So…

To get the best of both worlds, we will build the trick in front of them. This way it’s not “just another card trick” but also it’s not something you clearly picked up at the magic store. It feels spontaneous. It feels personal. (Because it is both of those things.)

In addition…

They get to handle the cards (seemingly) before you start, which makes the final surprise ending much stronger. So it’s a classic of magic, made personal, made stronger, made completely un-Google-able, and with an awesome souvenir at the end (if you choose to go that way—as I’ll describe further on).

Handling

I won’t go into the standard Color Monte handling, just the specifics for this version.

Switching in the Cards

Here is how I do it. I perform this seated on a couch with someone. You could easily do the switch in your pockets as you went for the marker if you were standing, or in your lap if you were seated at a table. The way I do it, it happens before they know a trick is coming.

I have this set up in the end-table drawer on my side of the couch.

IMG_6184.JPG

The final image is pre-drawn on the underside of the top card in a stack of three which is clipped under the pen cap.

On the coffee table in front of us is a large stack of blank cards. Sometimes the person will ask about them, sometimes they don’t. I don’t over-justify them. While a stack of blank playing cards isn’t normal, they’re also not particularly suspicious. My friends know me as someone with an interest in magic, so I just tell the truth, “Oh, I use them for magic tricks. Or practicing sleight-of-hand. Or building card castles if I’m bored. Or whatever. If you’re not using cards for a game, it’s cheaper to get them unprinted.” That sounds logical, but it’s surprisingly not true.

“Those are the same type of cards that guy in NYC scammed me with. Did I tell you that story? No? Oh… uhm… here…hand me three of those cards.”

They give me three blank cards. I look around for the marker I know is somewhere nearby. I open up the end-table on my side of the couch (blocked from their view), drop in the cards that the spectator just gave me, and pull out my set-up of the three cards and the marker.

This isn’t a switch that would fly in the middle of a routine. But before a trick has started, it’s fine. It’s a non-moment at this point. Especially since they’re going to see a bunch of displays where the cards are as they expect them to be.

A Quick Display

This is probably unnecessary, but I like to do it at this point. It happens while I’m making some mundane point about the blank cards. “They make some that have blank fronts, but normal playing card backs, and those are actually more expensive than a normal deck for some reason. But because these are blank on both sides they’re cheaper.”

During this I spread the three cards, showing three blank faces. Then I do a double turnover of the top two cards as one at about the time where I say, “because these are blank on both sides.” Then I turn the entire packet over and spread all three again. This isn’t intended to be 100% proof of three completely blank cards. It’s just meant to look like I’m handling the cards casually and you’re seeing nothing but blank cards.

IMG_6198.GIF

Creating the Cards

I start by talking about this time I was in NYC (or wherever). I can’t tell you exactly what I say. I just make it up in the moment. Maybe I’m talking about a guy I met at a party or the bus station or whatever. At this point, they genuinely don’t know if this is a true story or a trick or both.

I’m about to create the cards as I talk about them. I have to displace one of the cards so the cards in my hand are blank card; blank card; drawing card—drawing side up, in my left hand.

I bring my left hand up so I can draw on the cards with my right hand.

“He had three cards. The first had an X on it.”

I draw an X on the top card, show them the X on that card, then put it to the back of the packet with the X facing me. (Here is my perspective, with their view in the mirror.)

IMG_6192.GIF

“The second card had an O on it.”

I draw an O on the top card, show them the O, then put it to the back of the packet with the O facing me. And I keep a pinky break between that card and the other two.

IMG_6193.GIF

“And the third card had another X on it.”

I mime drawing an X on this card as well. Then I pull the second card out, turn it towards them and place it at the back of the pack. This all seems pretty straightforward from their perspective.

IMG_6194.GIF

“That’s all he had. Three cards. I’m positive of that.” I take the cards writing-side down and drop them onto the table (well, couch) one at a time. The $14 card is now face-down on top of the three cards.

“He told me he wanted to play a simple game with three cards. An X, an O—the ‘money’ card—and an X.”

While saying this, I pick up the packet, turn it over and give it whatever kind of count you would call this: The cards start in my right hand. Take the X-card off into my left. Take both remaining cards, while stealing back the X card. Take the X card again.

Like this:

IMG_6203.GIF

Very simple and clean. Everything seems as it should.

I then just go into the standard Color Monte handling. The only deviation I make is as follows… You know that part where you’re doing a double turnover of the top and bottom card and you have to do that unnatural alignment move first? Even as a kid that stood out to me when I was seeing the trick the first time. The way to make it not stand out as much is to spread the cards back like that before each display. Not just the ones where you’re doing the alignment. In other words, do this…

IMG_6188.GIF

as if you’re displaying the options of Top, Middle, and Bottom before each “bet” where you show a card in a particular location, even when you don’t need to, like when showing the bottom card in that gif. I’m sure this is an adjustment others have made too.

Climax

So we get to the climax and obviously what I say will depend on what my final reveal image is. I have some hand-drawn $14 cards (as in the gifs above) if I want to do the traditional climax. But the final image can be anything, of course, and here is my general patter, picking up right before the climax…

“So the guy was like, ‘Look, I’ll make it easy on you,’ and he turned over two of the cards. ‘Double or nothing. Just tell me what’s not on this final card. If you can tell me what’s not on the final card, we’re even.’ And honestly, I didn’t really have any idea. I didn’t know if there was an X on there or an O. I was completely confused. But I figured I had trapped him a little. So I said, ‘I just have to tell you what’s not on that card and I get my money back.’ He told me that was the deal. ‘Ok… what’s not on that card is a picture of my dog’s dick.’”

I pause. “I really thought I’d got one over on him. But this guy was good.” I turn over the card on the table. It’s a picture of a fuzzy penis with “$14” underneath.

“‘That will be $14,’ he said.”

It doesn’t have to be something dirty. It can be anything at all. “You definitely don’t have a picture of an octopus in a yarmulke under there .” Or whatever.

Keepsake Version

This is my favorite way to do it. “So I said to the guy, ‘I just have to tell you what’s not on the card? Okay, well there’s definitely not a picture of my friend Jessica who I won’t meet for another 15 years under there!’” And you turn it over and there’s a picture of the person you’re performing for.

IMG_6195.jpg

Or it can be a picture of your friend’s baby, or their cat, or something else meaningful to them. Just substitute that in the patter.

I just find a local artist who can bang out something like this relatively quickly and have them do maybe 20 simple pictures of friends and family I might end up showing the trick to. For a few dollars a piece, you have a totally personalized piece of magic with a memento they’ll keep forever. All from fucking Color Monte!

Final Thoughts

1. I’ve flirted with the idea of having them draw 2 Xs on two cards, and 1 O on another. Then just switch in the $14 card for one of the Xs. I haven’t done it yet, but I may try it in the future. If you do that, you should probably use a much thicker marker. You don’t want their Xs to look very different from each other or else they might notice that they’re only seeing one of their Xs throughout the trick.

2. This is a small thing, but I’ve taken to telling the story with $10 bets at each level, and a $140 card at the end. I prefer it to seem like it’s potentially a real story about getting scammed, at least up until the punchline. And betting $1 at a time is a bit too low-stakes of a story to tell. But that might just be my hang-up.

3. I’ve also considered just having the final reveal card as the third card down in the stack of blank cards on the table. That way you wouldn’t have to switch any cards at all. You would just use the person’s natural assumption that in a stack of blank cards, all the sides are blank. But this too is something I haven’t tried yet, just because I don’t want to run the risk of them exposing that final reveal card in the process of handing me the cards. But you may feel it’s worth it.

4. The first few times I did this, I didn’t have the “$14” (or $140) on the final card. I just had whatever the final picture was. I’ve decided I prefer to have it on there. I feel it makes the story more “whole.” This isn’t just a random picture that showed up at the end of this trick. It’s a picture that specifically completes—and only makes sense—in the context of this story I just told.

5. I mentioned in a previous post that I’m trying to think of other packet tricks that could be done in this manner, because I think there’s something extra fooling about constructing the cards in their presence. I haven’t really found anything yet, but I’ll let you know if i do.

Be Like Aunt Tippy - Examination In Social Magic

I want to wrap up my recent posts on examination with some final thoughts (for now) on the subject.

A couple months ago I got an email that asked:

Am I right in thinking that in social magic, cleanup is even more important? How often do people say "let me have a look at this thingy again" after an effect? And how do you handle it? Carrying an ungimmicked duplicate of everything with you? —AS

Yes, you’re right that cleanup is more important in social magic. The reason why is because social magic is meant to have the feel and rhythm of a social interaction. That’s it’s defining quality.

Traditional magic is meant to have the feel and rhythm of a performance.

In a performance, you can introduce an object of interest, and not let the audience examine it.
In a performance, you can speak in one long, prepared monologue.
In a performance, you don’t have to address the audience’s questions, concerns, and curiosity. If I stop Derek Delgaudio mid-show and say, “Wait… hold-up…tell me more about that…,” then I’m the idiot, because that is not the nature of a performance.

But social magic is just the opposite. It’s a social interaction, first and foremost, that you move along the path of the trick you’re performing.

When you ignore your spectator’s interests or concerns, or you start speaking some clearly memorized patter, it no longer feels like a normal interaction, because that’s not how normal people behave in social situations. It may still be something, but it’s not social magic.

In my experience, people love seeing magic in casual situations. What they don’t love, and what feels awkward and alienating, is a “formal presentation” done at a cafe or in the break-room at work. So even if they realize you’re going into a trick, as long as it feels natural and casual, they will go along with it in that same spirit. What you don’t want to do is anything that breaks that spell in the moment. And one of those things that breaks the spell is withholding an object of interest.

✿✿✿

When performing social magic, don’t ask yourself, “What would Darwin Ortiz do?” Ask yourself, “What would Aunt Tippy do?”

Aunt Tippy just visited the Grand Canyon and you two are going to meet up for coffee and she’s going to tell you all about it. You and her are about to have a normal social interaction. Sure, Aunt Tippy will probably handle the bulk of the conversation. She may speak uninterrupted for minutes at a time. And when she tells the story of the snake that bit Uncle Bob’s scrotum, you may get the sense that it’s a story she’s been telling a lot of people since her return. Regardless of that, you can still have a genuine give and take with her.

But

If Tippy starts reciting a clearly memorized script about her trip to the Grand Canyon, or…
If you ask Tippy a question and she ignores it or only briefly addresses it, clearly intent on getting back to her pre-determined outline of how this conversation should go, or…
If Tippy has a bunch of obviously pre-written set-up/punchline jokes that she is inserting into the conversation…

You will start feeling like maybe Tippy was abducted by aliens on her Grand Canyon trip and you are now just dealing with some lizard in a Tippy-skin suit.

And getting back to the examination issue, if Tippy pulls out this “cool shot glass” she got at a gift shop and displays it at a distance and—when you reach for it—she quickly put it back in her purse, you will find that very strange. You’ll find it strange even though you have no reason to suspect anything weird about the shot glass.

So how do you think non-examination in a social situation comes across when the person you’re with does have a reason to question the object?

✿✿✿

Let’s say you transform a one dollar bill into a twenty dollar bill. There are four reasons someone would not ask to examine the bill in a social situation:

  1. They don’t give a shit about what you just showed them.

  2. They weren’t fooled by the trick. They know they don’t need to examine the $20 because they know the original $1 is still hidden in your hand.

  3. They just assume it’s a trick bill and they like you and they don’t want to embarrass you or spoil the moment by asking to look at it.

  4. They are so convinced that you have real magic powers that they don’t need to look at the $20. Obviously it’s just a normal $20. Why would you—a genuine WIZARD—turn the bill into anything other than a real $20?

Here is how deluded most magicians are: If someone doesn’t want to examine their magically altered object … they assume the reason is number four! Seriously! This is why you get the admonition, “If the spectator wants to examine your props, then you’ve done something wrong.” This is completely lazy, wishful thinking.

✿✿✿

Here is the rule I operate under:

If I am drawing people’s attention to an object, then I must act in a way that is consistent with that object being worthy of their interest. Therefore it must be able to be examined.

A desire to examine an object is an expression of the interest you’re trying to generate.

You can’t ask people to be somewhat interested in something you’re choosing to show them. That comes off as non-human. “Pay attention to this interesting thing! … Ok, now stop paying attention when it’s at its most interesting.”

✿✿✿

This doesn’t mean everything has to be examinable at all times, but objects of interest should be examinable at moments of peek interest.

When I read your mind, I’m not encouraging you to take interest in the pencil and the pad of paper. If you’re demanding to examine them, then there is quite possibly an issue with my performance.

But if I’m changing one bill to another, the bill is the thing I’m asking you to express interest in. Not allowing you to look at it at the end would be bonkers.

✿✿✿

To answer the questions from the email above:

How often do people say "let me have a look at this thingy again" after an effect?

They don’t have to say it because I always toss the item out for them to look at. How often do they take me up on my implied offer to look at it? Almost 100% of the time. In fact, if they don’t, that’s when I get concerned. The few times someone hasn’t taken at least a cursory look at some magically altered object, I’ve found—when breaking down the trick with them a little—that they already had a pretty good understanding of how the trick worked, which is what led to the disinterest in the examinable item.

And how do you handle it? Carrying an ungimmicked duplicate of everything with you?

Well, I don’t ever carry around more than one gimmicked object in the first place, so I don’t need a bunch of ungimmicked ones. But yes, if I have a gimmick that demands to be examined, I will choreograph things so I can switch it for something examinable.

✿✿✿

Here is, I think, the only intellectually honest counterpoint to the examination argument.

Magician: I don’t let people look at my props.

Me: But then they’ll just assume there’s something fishy about them.

Magician: I know. I just don’t care.

I think that’s a fair and rational position to take. It’s at least as fair and rational as saying, “I don’t care if they know I’m using sleight-of-hand,” which is an attitude a lot of magicians have. But ultimately I think it’s an attitude that cheats the audience in a way. This is a broader concept I’ll be discussing in a post in the near future called: No Easy Answers.

The Magic Negativity Index

Earlier this year, I had a friend who objected to something I said about magicians being perceived as misfits and weirdos by the general public. “That might have been true as recently as five or ten years ago, but I don’t think it’s true anymore,” was his general position. His evidence was the popularity of magicians on talk-shows and talent-shows.

While I can’t deny that magicians are appearing on tv more frequently than ever, I’m not 100% sure that translates into any individual person coming off any better when saying, “Hi! I’m a magician!” than he/she would have 20 years ago. I mean, I understand that people enjoy the magic of Shin Lim, but I don’t necessarily know if he comes off like the type of person you’d want to spend two hours in a car with.

Now, I like the fact that there is frequently a negative stereotype that follows magicians. I hope that never goes away, because I enjoy playing off that. It lowers the bar. And when people find out you’re into magic and you’re a not a creepy oddball, you tend to get bonus points just for being normal. I’ll take those points.

But maybe because I like that portrayal, I have a confirmation bias which causes me to interpret things that way. I’m always up for debunking my own biases, so I decided I needed some way to monitor the magic zeitgeist.

I think a good way to track this sort of thing is by observing the depiction of fictional magicians in the media. It’s great that more magicians are performing on tv, but all that says is that people find magic entertaining. I believe by looking at how magicians are portrayed in fiction, we can get a sense for what people think about magicians as people (not performers).

Historically, someone on a TV show or in a film who was interested in magic was either an idiot or a psychopath (or both). When a character was introduced as a magician you would think, “Oh, I wonder what will happen next. Will a bunch of feather flowers fall out of his sleeve? Or is he going to rape that woman with the business-end of a snow shovel?”

If the perception of magicians is shifting, we should see a change in how magicians are portrayed in tv and film. Will we start seeing charming, charismatic characters…. who also happen to be amateur magicians or children’s party performers? Maybe.

That’s what I intend to track. So a few months ago I decided I would take note of any show or movie I watched that included an adult character who performed magic as a hobby or job, and I’d assess the traits of that character and the show’s disposition towards magic and give it a score on the Magic Negativity Index. The Magic Negativity Index is a 1-10 scale applied to shows and movies where magicians appear. A score of 5 is a neutral score, where the “magician” character isn’t portrayed positively or negatively, and their interest in magic isn’t portrayed positively or negatively.

Here is the first batch of fictional portrayals of magicians that I saw in the past few months.

Magic Negativity Index

Modern Family: Season 10 Episode 16, "Red Alert"

Synopsis: Phil can’t find his cellphone. He hears it ringing and realizes it’s coming from inside a melon. He accidentally made the phone go in the melon while he was doing magic in his sleep.

The magician is: A hapless doofus.

Verdict: Phil on Modern Family is one of the most visible portrayals of an amateur magician in current day film/tv. While he is a likable character in general, his interest in magic and the subject of magic is always played for a laugh.

A conversation from a different episode…

Phil: Do you know what happens to magicians who reveal their secrets, Claire? They're shunned.

Claire: Doesn’t that happen already?

Magic Negativity Index Score: 5.8

I Think You Should Leave: Season 1, Episode 3 "It's The Cigars You Smoke That Are Going to Give You Cancer"

Synopsis: I Think You Should Leave is a sketch comedy show on Netflix. I like it. In the third episode, a couple is at a magic show. The man is picked as a volunteer in a sponge ball routine. During the routine he is peppered with hacky jokes by the magician. Later that night, his wife berates him and decides she’s going to leave him for not sticking up for himself when the magician "embarrassed" him. "That fat piece of shit made you look like a fool, Charlie. He basically pulled your little dick out in front of everyone and jerked you off until nothing came out because you are a boy."

The sketch ends with the guy returning to the magic show another night and volunteering himself, leading to this interaction.

The magician is: A mildly-abusive, moderately talented, hack.

Verdict: While the sketch ends with a graphic saying “Magicians Suck,” the magician—while not likable—is actually the least crazy person in the sketch.

Magic Negativity Index Score: 6.1

Note: The "fat piece of shit" magician is played by Jerx reader, Gerry Katzman.

Law and Order SVU: Season 20 Episode 16 "Facing Demons"

Synopsis: A man is found dead from suicide. He is surrounded by a bunch of polaroids of a naked boy. The police find that the boy in the pictures is, in fact, the dead man. They are pictures that were taken by his abuser. The dead man has killed himself after suffering depression from being molested by a magician when he was a kid.

“Yo, you ever vanish your wand in this boy right here?”

“Yo, you ever vanish your wand in this boy right here?”

The magician is: A pedophile, active for the last 30 years.

Verdict: Hmmmm….yeah, it’s going to be hard to spin this one. When the best defense of the magician character is, “Hey, at least he wasn’t molesting kids for forty years,” you know it’s going to rate high on the MNI.

Magic Negativity Index Score: 9.9

There you go. I’m not actively tracking these down; they’re just the ones I stumble over. Feel free to direct me to the appearance of any magician characters in any new media for future installments. Perhaps we’ll notice a shift in the Magic Negativity Index to some “below 5” scores as time passes. (In which case, I guess I’ll change the name to the Magic Positivity Index.)

Examination Judo Part Two: Munchausen

This builds off the technique I talked about yesterday. It allows you to perform an essentially invisible switch of a gimmicked object using psychology. This is very satisfying to perform.

We’ve all seen magicians do a trick with an object, then put it in their pocket at the end, and then pull it out again to be examined. This is a switch that fools, literally, 0% of the population. Once the audience has established a locus of suspicion, you can’t remove that object from their sight without ratcheting up that suspicion to its maximum degree. This is human nature.

The following technique allows you to do the same type of in-the-pocket switch (or any other sort of switch) in a way that draws no suspicion.

Munchausen

The basic concept is this: I show you a trick with a gimmicked object. Before the trick, I tell you it’s a gimmicked object and that it can’t be examined. Then, when the trick is over, I switch the object for a non-gimmicked version of the object.

Here’s what it might look like in practice.

We’re hanging out at my place. You tell me you want to go out on my balcony for a smoke. I say, “No problem. Actually… I’m going to grab something while you have your cigarettes out. Hold on.”

Screen Shot 2019-06-04 at 4.37.20 PM.png

I meet you on the balcony and I pull out a quarter in a plastic case. “I got this from the magic store. It’s a trick coin. I can’t let you look at it closely, but I’ll still show you what it does. It’s pretty cool.”

I remove the coin and put the plastic case away. I borrow your cigarette and push it through the quarter. Then I put the quarter back in the case and set it on the handrail of the balcony.

Maybe we talk a little more about the trick and the magic store from which I got it. “I like the trick a lot, but it’s sort of expensive to do. The coins are $8 and they’re one-time use only. Actually, I can bring this back to the shop and get a $2 deposit back. So they’re really only $6 each, but still….”

You ask me what I mean that it’s “one-time use.”

“They don’t…like…the quarter won’t…you know…accept another cigarette. Look…,” I say. I cleanly open up the container with the trick quarter in it and press the cigarette against it. Nothing happens. “You just can’t push it through a second time.” I give you the cigarette and quarter to try yourself. You look at the quarter and as far as you can tell it’s a normal quarter.

The method here is that I switched the quarter in my pocket as I reached my hands in to get the plastic case at the end of the trick. That’s it. But there’s zero suspicion on this switch because… well… why would I switch the coin? I told you it’s a trick coin. I told you that you can’t look at it at the end. There would be no point in switching it. So even if you make note of the hand with the quarter going into my pocket, when it comes back out with a quarter and I put it back in the “trick coin” case, that moment is forgotten. There’s no “suspicion” that the quarter might not be legit, because suspicion denotes uncertainty. There’s no uncertainty here. You’re positive that the quarter is gimmicked.

The way I actually use this technique with cigarette through quarter is even more bold. What I do is I’ll perform the trick, put the coin back in the box [switch] and then say, “I can’t show you how that one works. But I can show you how they used to do it. Hold on.” I now go to get something, leaving them alone with the “trick” coin, which they may or may not try to sneak a look at while I’m gone. When I come back I’m holding… a cigarette through quarter gimmick. And I just show it to them. “See… it’s like a little door in the coin. But obviously you can’t show the person both sides like I did with that one.” I didn’t show them both sides the other time either, of course, but they don’t remember either way. “This version,” I say, pointing to the coin in the plastic case, “is pretty new. It’s only been around 8 or 10 years. I have no clue how they make these ones. It’s pretty baffling.” I then act like, “what the hell, I’ll show you the new version too,” and I let them open the case and all they see is a seemingly normal quarter.

I can understand if you feel uncomfortable exposing the cig thru quarter gimmick. but the truth is, this is a trick where the secret is so easily discoverable online (there’s no question what you would google to find the secret), that exposing the “old way” of doing it may be the best way to really fool them in the long-term.

Of course this technique doesn’t need to just be used with Cigarette Thru Quarter. Any gimmicked object that you can switch for an ungimmicked version would work.

Munchausen By Proxy

This is a combination of the ideas presented yesterday and today. It came to me via reader Derek D., who had independently come up with this combination of ideas that I was using separately.

It involves pairing two tricks together. One that can be examined, and one that can’t be (without a switch).

You do the trick that can be examined, but claim it can’t. For example, Paul Harris’ Reset. When you’re done you place the cards on the table. “Let me show you something similar I’m working on,” you say, and go into the trick that can’t be examined. In this case, let’s assume you’re doing NFW.

You now bring the attention back to the cards on the table. “I’m not supposed to let you look at those cards, because they’re trick cards. But honestly, I’d be curious if you have any insight on how they work. I can’t figure it out.” Or, if you don’t want to play dumb you can say, “The truth is, you can look at those cards [indicating the Reset cards]. You’ll never figure out how they’re gimmicked. It’s so cleverly done.”

Now, with their attention on the first set of “trick” cards, you can do a very clean, unhurried switch of the actual gimmicked cards you now hold for some ungimmicked cards, and set them on the table as you help the person look though the Reset cards. Then you can turn your attention to the NFW cards (the switched in ungimmicked ones) and be like, “These ones are the similar. I can’t for the life of me tell what’s unusual about them. But obviously something is or they couldn’t change like that.”

Now, in a sense, this is just a switch done under some misdirection. But you’re directing them towards the exact same thing you’re misdirecting them from, i.e., “gimmicked” cards. So I think it would be especially effective.

It’s easy for a spectator to think, “When he shot the confetti from the wand, that’s when he switched the cards.” That might be “obvious.” But here’s what’s not an obvious thought: “I think when he showed me the first trick with gimmicked cards, they were actually normal cards. Then when he showed me the second trick with gimmicked cards, they were gimmicked cards. And when he asked me to look at the first gimmicked cards which were actually ungimmicked, he then switched the real gimmicked cards for ungimmicked ones before he asked me to look at those ones too.” That’s not the sort of construction they’re just going to stumble their way into.

Both yesterday and today’s post are about extending the presentation beyond the effect itself. Traditionally, talking with the audience about the concepts of secrets, gimmicks, magic shops, trick-cards, exposure, etc., might have been seen as undermining the magic. But in the world we live in now—where almost all magic secrets can be found on a device in everyone’s pocket—messing with their understanding of secrets and gimmicks and those sorts of things, can be one of the strongest ways to fool them.